A recent Washington State University graduate who grew up fascinated by hotels topped competitors from around the country in a contest designed to set women on a path toward successful careers in the hospitality industry.

Emma Claire Spring, 22, won the top prize in She Has a Deal, a competition that teaches women the ins and outs of hotel investing and ownership.

The prize was $50,000 in equity that TLT Solutions, a real estate investment firm, will invest in a hotel.

“Basically that means that I own a stake of this hotel,” Spring said, adding that this money will generate a return when the hotel is later sold.

It is a big step in a career that Spring has been thinking about since she was a child.

The Whitefish, Mont., native has always been fascinated by hotels and as a child used to imagine her house was a hotel that she managed. Growing up in a town that is a popular tourist attraction, she enjoyed showing off her community to other people, helping them find activities to do and making them feel comfortable there.

“It just kind of warmed my heart and felt natural to me and made me feel really happy,” she said.

She worked the front desk of a Best Western at age 14 and from there she fell in love with the industry.

She chose WSU over schools like University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Cornell because she loved its School of Hospitality Business Management.

While at WSU, she found out about the She Has a Deal competition and realized it could give her experience in the particular field she was interested in: hotel syndication.

A hotel syndicator is the general partner in a real estate deal, she said. The syndicator’s name is on the loan and they are the ones that analyze the finances, raise capital and work with banks and management companies to invest in the hotel.

As part of the She Has a Deal competition, she took classes on the steps needed to own or syndicate a hotel.

She was also tasked with pitching an acquisition of an actual hotel. She chose to pitch a Delta Hotel conversion located in Chantilly, Va.

With the help of an industry professional who coached her, Spring found a broker and worked with outside parties to formulate a pitch that outlines what she planned to do with the property and how that would create a return for investors.

Spring prepared for She Has a Deal while juggling classes and searching for a job. Fortunately, there was no shortage of people in the hospitality industry willing to help her.

“I think a lot of people in this industry realize that there’s a huge need for more women in ownership just from a diversity standpoint,” she said.

Working solo, Spring managed to beat five other teams from universities across the U.S. in the final round of She Has a Deal, which took place earlier this month outside Washington, D.C.

Now, that $50,000 she won may actually be invested into the Chantilly hotel she focused on in her pitch, she said.

Fresh off her big win, Spring is currently working remotely in Pullman for Inspirato, a company that oversees real estate acquisitions in the Caribbean and South Florida.

Her long-term include possibly starting her own real estate investment firm and be a syndicator herself.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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